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Meeting God in the Wilderness

March 9, 2019

On our short trip the week before last to visit Rapid City, South Dakota, it seemed like we were the only people in Badlands National Park. I think we only saw one car the entire circuit. When we visited at the end of May last year, the temperatures were much warmer and the starkness of the wilderness was vivid. Even though the temperatures were quite cold on the last visit, the beauty of the snow somehow softened the look of the wilderness.

When I think of the wilderness and wilderness experiences that I have had in my own life, nothing was as dramatic as Jesus’s forty days and nights. In Luke’s reflection on the wilderness experience of Jesus, we see a sketch of the experience. What is missing is the raw and gritty experience of the 40 days… following his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was immediately sent into the wilderness. We don’t hear anything about the majority of his experience until the temptation at the end.

Imagine, if you will, spending forty days and nights without food. There are plenty of traditions from the Native American Vision Quest to the Desert Ammas and Abbas spending time fasting and praying. The wilderness was where they went to seek God.

In that situation you are incredibly vulnerable. You face your own inner demons. Your body and spirit are worn down and raw. That must have been how Jesus felt when the temptations hit him like a ton of bricks.

As I explore this wilderness scene… as I place myself into the story in good Ignatian fashion… I am overwhelmed by the vulnerability of it all. In that moment, I remember all of the wilderness moments in my own life. In that moment, I am overwhelmed by it all.

During this Lenten season, I am inviting our congregation to explore their own wilderness moments. I am inviting them to spend 15-20 minutes each day in a quiet wilderness place nearby. There are so many places that I can think of in the Rocky Mountain National Park to explore my own wilderness moments.

In the Gospel story, Jesus faces the temptations. In our day, dear reader, we are invited as a community of faith to go to the wilderness to listen for the voice of God. This is a time of self-reflection and contemplation. May we find God in these wilderness moments during this Lenten season.

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